Billeder på siden

body; he did not crave to discover distant kingdoms, for locked within the cranium he found ample treasures; he blazed no path in primitive forests, but all thru its winding labyrinths he followed the trigeminal nerve, slowly discovering the secrets that were strewn along its tortuous way. Galen adored the mechanism of the body; he was filled with wonder at the perfection of its parts. He claimed that in writing anatomy he was really celebrating the Creator; again and again the great Pagan physician breaks forth into pæans of praise: 'In writing these books I compose a true and real hymn to that awful Being who made us all; and, in my opinion, true religion consists not so much in costly sacrifices and fragrant perfumes offered upon his altars, as a thoro conviction of his unerring wisdom, his resistless power, and his all diffusive goodness.'

An extract like the following illustrates Galen's interest and delight in the body: In the inner cavity of the larynx there is a structure of peculiar formation, which we have already shown to be the principal organ of the voice. It resembles the mouthpiece of a reed-pipe, especially when seen either from above or from below. Instead, however, of comparing the glottis with the tongue of reed instruments, it would be more appropriate to compare them with the glottis. For the works of Nature are both earlier in time, and more perfect in construction, than those of art; and, as the glottis is the work of Nature, while the reed-pipe is the production of art, it is possible that the latter might have been made in imitation of the glottis by some clever artist, able to understand and copy the structure of natural objects.'

His teleological proclivities are seen in passages such as these: 'In my view there is nothing in the body useless or inactive; but all parts are arranged to perform their offices together, and have been endowed by the Creator with specific powers.'

We regret that we cannot share Galen's convictions in these respects. Man is compelled to perform the lowest and highest functions in life with the same organ, and was it nice on

Nature's part to place the womb between the bladder and the rectum? St Augustine was no physiologist, but he was vilely correct when he said that we are born between urine and feces.

Teleology was indeed a rotten spot in Galenism. Wise Anaxagoras had said that adaptation to function disproves teleology, but Plato and Aristotle believed in design in nature, and Galen followed them, and erected the most elaborate teleological system ever known. Hippocrates approached questions with an open mind, but Galen came with his dogmas, and sought to make his observations fit into the mold of preconceived notions. His practical work was invaluable, but most of his theoretical digressions are tedious and worthless. He wrote volumes of nonsensical assumptions, and seemed to suffer from an Asiatic imagination. It often happened that he was prevented from interpreting his results correctly because of his predilection for a priori reasoning.



Hippocrates left medicine free, but Galen fettered it with hypotheses. Hippocrates related his failures, and used to say, 'I do not know,' but Galen always imitated an oracle. Science and Faith,' said Hippocrates, are two things: the first begets knowledge, the second ignorance;' but Galen sought to mix the observations of Hippocrates with the metaphysics of Plato. Galen abhorred doubt; his mind craved for finalities. Galen admired Euclid's method of proving things, and he tried to make medicine as exact a science as geometry; it is difficult to decide which was the greater the absurdity or the audacity of the attempt. In his system everything was explained; everything was catalogued and tabulated. He answered all questions, he solved all problems. There seemed nothing left for others to do except to say, Amen. And so it was. Galen was the last of the Greeks, and when he spoke no more, the voice of antiquity was hushed.

Already in the second century there were signs of the coming darkness; soon the imperial city succumbed to invading barbarians, and in the ashes of Rome was buried all that was left of Greece. Then came the deluge. Clouded by Chris

[ocr errors]

tianity, the world lay for centuries in the abyss of irrationalism. Monks crept over Europe, and in their trail walked mental stagnation. Medicine became magic, and science was turned into sorcery. Supernaturalism displaced the natural, and no fact was believed unless it was supported by a miracle. Sometimes a Jewish or Arabian physician would stir a smouldering Greek ember into flame, but it was intellectual night in the dominions of the Nazarene.

During the fifteen hundred years that the world was too indolent to think for itself, Galen was its undisputed authority. His dogmatism was well suited for the general sloth. He was regarded as infallible; age after age rolled by, and in Europe, Africa and Asia he remained the unquestioned dictator. From his grave he ruled continents and centuries. He had only one rival - the Stagyrite. If Galen and Aristotle are of one mind on a subject,' wrote Rhazes, then of course their opinion is true. When they differ, however, it is extremely difficult to decide which opinion to accept.' So we see that the scholars of the Dark Ages followed Galen and Aristotle blindly, and never caught the Greek spirit of free inquiry.


Light did not shine on earth again, until the passion for Greece so inflamed the hearts of men, that on the abandoned altars of Hellas, awakening Europe found burning the torch of unfettered speculation. This was the death-knell of the Dark Ages, and when the clarion calls of Doubt went ringing thruout the lands, medievalism was transformed into modernity; there was a new dispensation, and new reckonings and re-adjustments. It was a Revolution that mankind has termed the Renaissance. Truth was once more saluted, and in the re-birth of the intellect, independent thought again came to human brains. What happened in art and literature and in general science, is common knowledge and is taught to every school-child, but medical science likewise had its resurrection. A young Flemish anatomist, who plied his scalpel enthusiastically, declared that Galen had made mistakes. The

old generation was aghast at the blasphemy, but the world was marching on, and from his inviolate throne, at last fell the physician of Pergamus. But his worth was measured in the impartial balance of history, and the verdict was that Galen was the Prince of Physicians but not infallible.

[ocr errors]


« ForrigeFortsæt »